The No-Fly List Is Unconstitutional

June 25, 2014

The federal government’s no-fly list, which prevents those suspected of terrorist ties from boarding flights in the United States or flying through American airspace, is reported to include more than 20,000 names—a number that metastasized after the Sept. 11 attacks. There’s a low evidentiary standard for getting on the list. Once on, it’s not only difficult to get off but almost impossible to find out why, exactly, one was added in the first place.

In a ruling on Tuesday, a federal judge recognized that the shadowy procedures surrounding the list are unconstitutional. Judge Anna Brown of the U.S. District Court in Oregon found that the government’s failure to provide any notice, explanation or meaningful way to challenge a no-fly designation violates the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process, as well as Congress’s instruction to provide a chance to appeal one’s inclusion on the list and correct inaccurate information.

The new ruling came in response to an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit brought on behalf of 13 U.S. citizens prevented from boarding flights, including four military veterans. The inability to fly caused them real harm.

Judge Brown cited prolonged separation from spouses and children, loss of employment opportunities and government benefits, the inability to participate in religious rites and pursue educational choices. She also cited the stigma of being identified to airline employees and potentially other travelers of having suspected ties to terrorism.

Hina Shamsi, one of the A.C.L.U. lawyers who argued the case, made the point that “it doesn’t help either national security or due process rights to have a bloated system in which many innocent people land on the list mistakenly without a meaningful process to clear their names.”

“This should serve as wakeup call to the government,” American Civil Liberties Union attorney Hina Shamsi said in a statement. “This decision also benefits other people wrongly stuck on the no-fly list because it affords them [an opportunity to challenge] a Kafkaesque bureaucracy.”

Virginia man’s challenge to no-fly list clears hurdle

January 23, 2014

 

A federal judge on Wednesday allowed a Virginia man’s challenge to his placement on the no-fly list to go forward, three years after he was stranded in Kuwait.

U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga issued a 32-page written ruling rejecting arguments of government lawyers who wanted the case dismissed. Trenga said that Gulet Mohamed suffers significant harm from his apparent placement on the list and the Constitution gives him the right to challenge his no-fly status.

Trenga acknowledged that Mohamed’s travel rights must be balanced against the government’s duty to protect its citizens from terrorism, but wrote that “the No Fly List implicates some of our basic freedoms and liberties as well as the question of whether we will embrace those basic freedoms when it is most difficult.”

The Justice Department is reviewing the ruling, department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said in an email late Wednesday.
The government has refused to say why it would have placed Mohamed on the no-fly list; in fact, the government won’t even confirm that Mohamed, or anyone else, is on the list at all. The government says only that people are placed on the list when it has “reasonable suspicion to believe that a person is a known or suspected terrorist.”

Mohamed, an Alexandria resident and naturalized U.S. citizen, was 19 when he was detained by Kuwaiti authorities in 2011. Mohamed says he was beaten and interrogated at the behest of the U.S. and denied the right to fly home.
U.S. authorities allowed Mohamed to fly home after he filed a federal lawsuit, but Mohamed says he remains on the list without justification.

Mohamed’s lawyer, Gadeir Abbas, who is with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called the ruling “a stinging rebuke to the government’s use of the no-fly list.”
Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/va-mans-challenge-to-no-fly-list-clears-hurdle/2014/01/23/7e063730-8432-11e3-a273-6ffd9cf9f4ba_story.html

Judge rules in favor of Muslim woman on no-fly list

January 16, 2014

 

A Muslim woman now living in Malaysia struck a blow to the U.S. government’s “no-fly list” when a federal judge ruled Tuesday (Jan. 14) that the government violated her due process rights by putting her on the list without telling her why.

Muslims and civil rights advocates say the no-fly list disproportionately targets Muslims, and they hope the ruling will force the government to become more transparent about the highly secretive program.

The lawsuit, filed by San Jose-based McManis-Faulkner in 2006 on behalf of the mother of four children and PhD student at Stanford University, alleged that the government violated Dr. Ibrahim’s due process rights when it placed her on the “no-fly” list. U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup ruled that Ibrahim had standing to challenge the government’s actions, ordered the government to correct Ibrahim’s position on the “no-fly” list and to disclose to her what is her current status on the “no-fly” list.

The lawsuit is the oldest of three currently being litigated to challenge the government’s secretive “no-fly” list, which effectively bars individuals the government often mistakenly believes to pose a security threat from flying. The Obama administration vehemently opposed Ibrahim’s lawsuit, sought to keep the December trial secret and is currently requesting that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals keep the ruling sealed.

“Judge Alsup’s ruling affirms that basic notions of transparency and accountability apply to even the U.S. government’s ‘no-fly’ list. We welcome this ruling and look forward to further clarity as to how one can navigate the maze created by the ‘no-fly’ list and other similar listings,” said AAAJ–ALC staff attorney Nasrina Bargzie.

“Each year our offices hear from hundreds of individuals who are visited by the FBI and face related travel issues,” said Zahra Billoo, executive director of the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “Many have lost hope about clearing their names, but this case will renew our collective desire to continue forward with the courts on our side.”

Under the guidelines, people who have been stopped from boarding flights may file an inquiry with the Department of Homeland Security, but responses do not include information about whether the person is on the no-fly list, according to the ACLU. The only way to find out whether a person has been removed from the no-fly list is to buy a ticket and try to board a flight.
RNS.com: http://www.religionnews.com/2014/01/16/judge-rules-favor-muslim-woman-fly-list/
CAIR.com: http://cair.com/press-center/press-releases/12322-civil-rights-groups-welcome-legal-victory-against-no-fly-list.html

New York Muslim Stranded in Germany by No-Fly List

The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY) today urged the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to allow Samir Suljovic, a 26-year-old New York resident and American citizen, to return home from Germany.

Suljovic traveled to Montenegro this summer to visit family and friends. After trying to fly back home to New York on October 1, he was informed by airline agents in Austria that the DHS and CBP had asked foreign authorities to prevent him from boarding his flight. Suljovic has been stranded for 17 days and has repeatedly been denied the right to fly home to New York. He has contacted the DHS and CBP liaison at JFK International Airport, but has received no response.

Despite being advised to seek help from the U.S. embassy in Germany, embassy personnel have reportedly provided no assistance, and instead have interrogated Suljovic and allegedly searched his cell phone without his permission.

Suljovic was born and raised in Oakland Gardens, Queens.

A letter addressed to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, DHS Secretary Janet Napalitano, New York members of the United States Congress, and the United States Embassy in Munich was sent by CAIR-NY expressing concern and disappointment in the government’s role in preventing Suljovic from returning to his family in New York.

Earlier this year, CAIR called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate acts of “coercion and intimidation” allegedly used by the FBI to pressure Muslim citizens into giving up their constitutional rights if they wished to return to the United States from overseas.

CAIR: San Diego Muslim Placed on No-Fly List, Stuck in Costa Rica

The 27-year-old American-born Muslim has been studying in Costa Rica and was denied the right to board a June 5 flight to return to the United States after graduation. He was interviewed by the FBI about his political and religious affiliations and past travel, but was not given clear reasons for being placed on the no-fly list.

(NOTE: The man will attempt to board another flight to the United States on Thursday morning.)

Earlier this year, CAIR called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate acts of “coercion and intimidation” allegedly used by the FBI to pressure Muslim citizens into giving up their constitutional rights if they wished to return to the United States from overseas.

Last year, CAIR filed a lawsuit against the DOJ and the FBI seeking a court order to allow a Virginia Muslim teenager who had been detained in Kuwait and placed on a U.S. government no-fly list to return to the United States.

Abdelrazik Returns to Canada After Six Years of Exile in Sudan

Abousfian Abdelrazik ended six years in exile in Sudan, where he faced torture at the hands of Sudanese authorities, several thwarted attempts to return and spent over a year stranded at the Canadian embassy in Khartoum. Mr. Abdelrazik was born in Sudan but fled the country in 1990. He received refugee status in Canada in 1992 and Canadian citizenship in 1995. In 2003, Mr. Abdelrazik traveled back to the country to visit his ailing mother. He was repeatedly imprisoned by Sudanese authorities and tried to return to Canada several times but was denied a passport because he was put on a United Nations no-fly list at the request of the United States.

Both CSIS and the RCMP have said publicly that they have no evidence that Mr. Abdelrazik has been involved in terrorist activities.

Canada denies passport to citizen in the Sudan on no-fly list

Supporters of Abousfian Abdelrazik — a Canadian citizen blacklisted as a terrorist and stranded in Sudan — accused the federal Conservative government of racism for refusing to issue him an emergency passport to fly home to Montreal.

Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon considers Abdelrazik a national security threat. The refusal represents a reversal of the government’s written promise to issue Abdelrazik an emergency passport if he had a paid-for ticket home.

Abdelrazik remains stranded in the lobby of the Canadian embassy in Khartoum, where he has lived for nearly 11 months. Abdelrazik was added to the list in 2006 by the Bush administration. He has been cleared of any terrorist or criminal involvement by both the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service).

The news has also created controversy in the House of Commons. “The government is now in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said Liberal MP Irwin Cotler.